Before you read this, I’d like to reiterate that you absolutely must not read this or any other spoiler-y reviews before you see the play! If you’d like to read my thoughts, here is my spoiler-free review of the onstage production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which I was lucky enough to go and see last weekend. (Seriously, I cannot believe my luck. I feel like a member of the A-list.)
If you’ve seen the show and are interested in my general thoughts on acting and staging, I talk about these in the spoiler-free version as well. Below follows an in-depth discussion on the parts of the play that are not common knowledge, like how particular things are staged or certain characters that not everyone knows appear in the story. I’m also writing this under the assumption that people who are reading it know what happens, so I will talk about specific plotpoints. So finally, please please PLEASE do not read on if you haven’t read the script or seen the show! #KeepTheSecrets!!!
OK, so one thing I didn’t mention at all in my previous post was Harry, because I didn’t know how to get across how good he was without giving examples of lines or scenes from the show. He was so true to form; his personality is still balancing itself and rage still bursts out at times, but he also just loves being with friends and family. The moments that really got me were when he was arguing with McGonagall, and says that she can’t know anything about being a parent because she doesn’t have children, and when he says he sometimes wishes Albus weren’t his son.
Several people who’ve read the script have said that they can’t imagine Harry ever saying this, or talking to McGonagall that way. I don’t know what other people who have seen the show think, but I found both scenes completely believable. Harry is, as he says later, trying to be a father without a father to base himself on. We’ve seen him get frustrated and lash out at Ron and Hermione in the books; it makes perfect sense that this hasn’t left him as an adult. And of course he still respects McGonagall – he apologises at the end – but he’s worried about his son and look how he spoke to Ron and Hermione when he thought Sirius was in danger in Book 5. Also, if you don’t think this is true to character – look at yourself, and think how much you’ve changed in the last five or six years. This is twenty years later. I like the fact that Thorne took risks and changed the characters a bit – it gives the whole thing a more realistic edge.
His PTSD was also good to see (but sad for Harry, obvs). As fans, our general consensus is that Harry wouldn’t be able to just move on from all the things he saw at school, and I was so glad Thorne didn’t present Harry as someone who has finally achieved his happy ending. There were some dark and gritty moments in this play, often surrounding Harry and his difficulties letting go of the past.
When it first started, I was a little unsure. The first act of Part 1 was a bit slow and, in storytelling and theatrical terms, imperfect. The scenes were too short and snappy, making the whole thing somewhat chaotic and confusing, but they weren’t quite short enough to work as a montage. I’ve mentioned the dancing previously, but one particular aspect of staging I didn’t like at all was the Sorting Hat.
So the Sorting Hat is a person wearing a hat. Whose idea was this? It was one thing that A Very Potter Sequel actually did better than Cursed Child, and that’s worrying. (Don’t get me wrong: I love the Starkid musicals, but this is supposed to be a West End production.) There’s nothing magical about a man walking slowly and deliberately around a stage before doing some weird amalgamation of Parseltongue and Latin before finally shouting which House the student is in.
AND IT’S A FRIGGING BOWLER HAT I MEAN COME ON. The Sorting Hat is a wizard’s hat! In what world did they think a bowler hat was appropriate?
One thing people have talked about is how ‘fanfic’ the whole thing feels, and to an extent, I agree. (But then, when I first read Half-Blood Prince, I thought that felt really fanfic too.) It was a bit obvious that Scorpius would fall for Rose, as we’ve seen in several fanfics. The fics I used to love reading, though, were ones were Voldemort had won the war – and now we get to see it in canon!
As aforesaid, some people think this is TOO fanfic, but how else would you get a good villain into this story without bringing Voldemort back? No one is going to be freaky enough after him. Delphi was a good villain but I can’t say she really concerned me at any point.
The ending to Part 1 was genuinely shocking onstage. When Umbridge came out, it took me a moment to work out if I was mixing her up with someone else because I couldn’t imagine why she’d be there. Then slowly I realised what was going on, and I loved it. The Dementors were amazing in this scene, and the effects used for them are so simple yet so chilling. (Definitely scarier than in the films…)
Delphi was annoying to start with, but her transition into villainy was good and believable (though she seemed kind of Muggle-loving, with the non-magical tattoo and the bits of blue in her hair). Her line ‘I only wanted to see my father’ was moving but it did remind me of Bruce the shark in Finding Nemo.
Delphi, though. Voldemort’s daughter? Really?
Of all the elements of this play that were ‘too fanfic’, this has to be the worst, because it just makes no sense. Why would Rowling approve this idea? Did she have this idea to begin with? I find this so hard to believe, because it goes against everything we know about Voldemort from the books. The whole point of him is that he doesn’t understand love, or even passion or desire, and that’s what makes him truly evil. He’s above such base things as lust. I spoke to my friend about this and she made the point that she can’t even imagine him sleeping, or eating or going to the toilet – and she’s completely right! When would Voldemort, who was so obsessed with world takeover, have the urge or even find the time to do… that… with his… thing?
The thing is, he thought he was going to live forever as well, so he wouldn’t even have done it to beget an heir. It’s just not logical and anyone who’s read the books will surely question this. The only way I think this would have worked would be if Bellatrix had bragged that she was pregnant with Voldemort’s child, but really it was Rodolphus’ all along. I can definitely believe it of her, but not of him.
Obviously – ob-vi-ous-ly – I just had to talk about Snape. If you’ve been reading my posts for a while, you’ll know I’m a massive Snape fan, and I was so excited when that kid said ‘Professor Snape always gives us so much homework’… I knew what was about to happen and sat up ramrod-straight.
He was played excellently, although of course Alan Rickman is a tough act to follow. His dialogue, though, was my favourite thing ever. The sarcasm was on point and felt so true to the books, reminding me why I fell in love with that character in the first place. He’s just so frickin’ funny. It was a really good homage to the character on Thorne’s part.
My only issue was that he was a little too friendly. He got along with Ron and Hermione too well, and was kind of… likeable. (I mean, I like him, but no one else does.) I just feel this wasn’t very true to character because if he’s had another 20 years to dwell on both Lily’s death and the aftermath of two wizarding wars, then wouldn’t he have grown even more bitter and twisted?
A few other things I wanted to mention:
- Moaning Myrtle was in it! She was so good. She was essentially doing an impression of the actress from the films, but it was a good impression so I loved it. They also made her a bit more of a perv, like she is in the books, which was hilarious. (She looked a bit like Old Gregg, though, if you’ve seen The Mighty Boosh.)
- My friend and I discussed Ginny and decided she was kind of pointless. I didn’t hate her, but I definitely felt her lines were unnecessary and she was only really there because otherwise they’d have to explain what happened to her. Maybe Thorne just doesn’t like the character much.
- Hagrid came across as a parody. I feel like I’ve seen that costume in Starkid.
- Are Draco’s parents dead or does he just not speak to them? He talks about them and it’s pretty clear he’s not seen them for a while, but he never mentions if they’re alive. I can see why he wouldn’t speak to Lucius, but why not Narcissa, who was only ever trying to protect him? (Maybe someone can clear this up for me. He gets the other Time-Turner from his dad so did he inherit it? But they weren’t that old in the books so would they both be dead now? Or are they in prison? So many questions.)
- Ron’s ‘Let’s have another baby’ line made me squeal with laughter. Paul Thornley playing Albus playing Ron – hilarious. This was also the only bit that made me laugh when I was reading the script afterwards. That whole section was the funniest thing to see onstage.
- One of my favourite lines was when Scorpius said ‘The Malfoys, making the world a murkier place’. I just really like that line, man.
- Hermione and Rose hugging after Hermione realises that there was a world where her kids didn’t exist. I got teary-eyed.
I was expecting to cry at this show, but didn’t actually cry anywhere near as much as I expected to. (Like I said a few posts back, I’ve been a bit cold-hearted lately. I haven’t cried at any books for ages.) However, the moment that really got me was right at the end, when all the main characters were at Godric’s Hollow, waiting to watch Voldemort kill Lily and James.
This worked so much better than it did in the films and even in the books. Those screams were piercing. The scene shook me in a way that it never has before; I never really understood what a frightening moment it was until hearing that dialogue out loud.
Please go to see this show. If you’re expecting the books, you’ll be disappointed, but if you just want to know what happens to those characters we love, I definitely recommend it. I understand some people are unable to see the show, but if this is the case and you want to read the script instead, please try not to judge the play entirely on how you felt reading the script, because it just isn’t the same.
‘The stories we love best do live in us forever, so whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.’
– J. K. Rowling